Q&A with Adena Varner

The Rep Reimagines the Future of Arts Education

Tuesday | Sep. 22, 2020

Adena HeadshotThe Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is pleased to welcome Adena Varner as its new Director of Learning and Community Engagement.

“Adena is a passionate thought leader in arts education, a gifted facilitator of civic and social discourse and a champion of life-long learning, families and educators,” said Hana S. Sharif, The Rep’s Augustin Family Artistic Director. “We are thrilled to have her on the team as we bring the magic of theatre to our communities and the power of our communities into our theatres.”

A teaching artist, playwright and director, Varner previously held the titles of Director of Learning and Social Accountability and Director of Education at Baltimore Center Stage. She managed all education, family and civic programming, with a focus on storytelling that reflects and connects all communities.

“I’m so inspired to bring the departments of education and community engagement together at The Rep so we can be more intentional about how art, life and learning intersect as a community,” Varner said. “I’m excited to join The Rep family and its dedicated staff in serving St. Louis’ children, families and communities in a myriad of ways.”

Varner has been a life-long theatre-lover and artist, graduating from the Baltimore School for the Arts' Theater Department, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Theater at the University of Maryland and obtaining a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from The Catholic University of America.

Moving to a new city and taking on a new professional role during unprecedented times has given Varner some insight into the current challenges educators face. 

“As a mom, right now I’m getting the inside scoop on what teachers really need,” said Varner, “We have to be nimble, look at our programs and adapt based on the needs of our educators and our families.”

For example, The Rep’s young playwrights program, WiseWrite, has adapted this year from an in-school program in selected fifth and sixth-grade classrooms to an online platform that will culminate with professional actors performing some of the new plays on YouTube this fall.

“Writing is incredibly important, especially for young people, to find their voices and access creativity in a completely different way,” Varner said. “If we’re flexible in our plans, focused on our community and intentional in our approach, even COVID can’t stop us this season.”

To learn more about Varner, check out our extended Q&A. For more information on educational programs such as the WiseWrite Digital Play Festival, visit repstl.org or call The Rep Box Office at 314-968-4925.

Picture by Stevie's Photography